Lurking amongst the ghetto that is Upper Queen St (I live there, and have lived nearby for years, so feel qualified to say this) is a small, grimy spot lit by fluorescent lights and adorned with plastic chairs and ex-hospital café tables.
This is not the Ritz – a fact you will immediately seize upon when seeing the location, scoping the atmosphere and meeting the staff. However they do have two things going for them that make this a destination 100% worth visiting, namely some truly amazing dumplings and steam buns and prices that literally can’t be beat.
Picture this; you and a group of friends are looking for a cheap and cheerful night out, something tasty and social but easy on the wallet. You head to Top Café… it looks scummy, the staff are potentially rude and abrasive but you order a few rounds of dumplings (pork and chive, pork and vegetable and pork and chilli are my suggestions – all at around $9.80 per 20) alongside some steamed buns and an entrée of smashed cucumber, literally a smashed cucumber with some kind of powdered stock on it.
Some free tea comes out, the food is brusquely plonked down ten minutes later and you utilise your tea cup saucer as an impromptu sauce dish – the frenzy begins and all for less than $10 per person. You’ve now discovered the most sensational dumplings you’ll encounter in Auckland, handmade fresh daily and served fried or boiled. I’m hungry just thinking about them.
The menu is pretty brief and seems a bit hit and miss beyond the dumplings, soup buns and pork buns but it’s always worth a gamble and you never know what the outcome might be.
While on the outside Top Café might appear frightsome once the food arrives you’ll realise this place is a gamechanger and not to be underestimated.